How This Acid Attack Survivor Convinced Nepal to Support Victims
Victims will now be compensated to help pay for ongoing medical bills.
When 16-year-old Nepalese student Sangita Magar was doused with acid three years ago as retaliation for a family dispute in her apartment building, there was no restitution given to victims of such attacks.
But after challenging the country’s laws on acid and burn violence, this survivor-turned-plaintiff has convinced the Supreme Court to order that victims should get immediate financial support from the government to cover treatment, reported NPR, effective this month.
"The underlying problem is the fundamental devaluation of women and girls," said Jessica Neuwirth, director of Donor Direct Action, a global women's rights organization that supported Sangita Magar's legal team, in an interview with NPR.
Magar had been sitting in a prep class for her high school exams in Kathmandu when Jiwan B.K., a tenant in the apartment building where she lived with her family, burst through the door and sprayed her with acid, following a fight with her brother about their shared bathroom.
At the time, B.K. attempted to get a lighter sentence by claiming that he attacked Magar for rejecting his romantic advances. But she maintains that it was a false narrative.
"They're taking the criminal's confession as truth," she told NPR. Magar is certain she was attacked because of the fight B.K. had with her brother.
These kinds of attack occur around the world, mainly in lower-income countries and are predominantly directed at women, according to the report.
Lighting someone on fire is another form of violence often directed at women in Nepal, noted Pratiksha Giri, executive director of BVS-Nepal, an organization supporting acid and burn survivors.
Advocates are optimistic that the new law will not only help victims of acid attacks and burn violence pay for medical bills, but also change the social norms that allow gender-based violence to continue.
While the provisions won't work retroactively and Magar won’t benefit from the new law herself, she is buoyed by the promise of change in Nepal the new law brings forth.
"From my case, others won't be victims of acid attacks,” she said, “and criminals who do acid attacks, or think to do them, will know the rules."